Proletarian writing dominated the colonial Korean literary scene from the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s and left a lasting legacy in the later, post-1945 literatures of North and South Korea. Rat Fire: Korean Stories from the Japanese Empire brings together thirteen short stories by colonial Korean writers, as well as two works written in 1946 under U.S. military occupation. Political cartoons, illustrations, newspaper clippings, and photographs—over sixty included in the volume—place the works of Korean writers in close conversation with the rich history of colonial proletarian visual culture. This anthology moves across verbal and visual media and geographical borders, following characters making their way through disintegrating rural areas and flourishing colonial urban centers, from the alluring margins of the Japanese metropole to the expanding Manchurian frontier. Rat Fire: Korean Stories from the Japanese Empire broadens and complicates the definition of the colonial Korean proletarian culture movement. In this volume, writers and artists confront the shifting boundaries of ethnicity/race, class, and culture that were reconfiguring both colonial Korea and the Japanese metropolitan center in the context of global imperialism in the first half of the twentieth century.
1. The Hound (Sanyanggae, 1925)
Pak Yŏng-hŭi (Trans. Theodore Hughes)
2. Blast Furnace (Yonggwangno, 1926)
Song Yŏng (Trans. Samuel Perry)
3. Bloody Flames (Hongyŏm, 1927)
Ch’oe Sŏ-hae (Trans. Jin-kyung Lee)
4. Naktong River (Naktonggang, 1927)
Cho Myŏng-hŭi (Trans. Ross King)
5. City and Specter (Tosi wa yuryŏng, 1928)
Yi Hyo-sŏk (Trans. Young-Ji Kang)
6. Factory Newspaper (Kongjang sinmun, 1931)
Kim Nam-ch’ŏn (Trans. Young-Ji Kang)
7. Kkŏraei (The Koreans of Russia, 1933)
Paek Sin-ae (Trans. Kimberly Chung)
8. Rat Fire (Sŏhwa, 1933)
Yi Ki-yŏng (Trans. Jin-kyung Lee)
9. Salt (Sogŭm, 1934)
Kang Kyŏng-ae (Trans. Jin-kyung Lee)
10. Pusan (Pusan, 1935)
Yi Nam-wŏn (Trans. Mee Chang)
11. Railroad Crossing (Ch’ŏllo kyoch’ajŏm, 1936)
Han Sŏl-ya (Trans. Jin-kyung Lee)
12. Darkness (Ŏdum, 1937)
Kang Kyŏng-ae (Trans. Ruth Barraclough)
13. Tenma (Tenma, 1940)
Kim Sa-ryang (Trans. Christina Yi)
14. Trolley Driver (Chŏnch’a unjŏnsu, 1946)
Kim Yŏng-sŏk (Trans. I Jonathan Kief)
15. Mister Pang (Misŭt’ŏ Pang, 1946)
Ch’ae Man-sik (Trans. Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton)
Notes on Contributors
Ruth Barraclough is Senior Lecturer in the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University. She is the author of Factory Girl Literature: Sexuality, Violence, and Representation in Industrializing Korea (Seoul-California Series in Korean Studies, 2012) and co-editor (with Elyssa Faison) of Gender and Labour in Korea and Japan (Routledge, 2009).
Mee Chang holds an M.A. in modern Korean literature from Columbia University.
Kimberly Chung is Assistant Professor of Modern Korean Literature at Keimyung University. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego in 2011 with a dissertation on the proletarian literature and culture of colonial Korea.
Bruce Fulton is Associate Professor of Modern Korean Literature at the University of British Columbia. He is the translator and editor of many important anthologies of modern Korean literature such as Modern Korean Fiction: An Anthology (Columbia University Press, 2005); Land of Exile (M.E. Sharpe, 2007); and Wayfarer: New Fiction by Korean Women (Women in Translation, 1997); among others.
Ju-Chan Fulton is an independent scholar, specializing in the translation of Korean literature into English. As a co-translator with Bruce Fulton, she has contributed to the volumes, Modern Korean Fiction: An Anthology (Columbia University Press, 2005); Land of Exile (M.E. Sharpe, 2007); and Wayfarer: New Fiction by Korean Women (Women in Translation, 1997); among others.
Theodore Hughes is Associate Professor of Modern Korean literature at Columbia University. He is the author of Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea: Freedom’s Frontier (Columbia University Press, 2012) and the translator of Panmunjom and Other Stories by Lee Ho-Chul (EastBridge, 2005).
Young-Ji Kang is a graduate of the University of British Columbia. For “City and Specter,” she was co-recipient of the Grand Prize in the 4th Undergraduate Translation Workshop at the University of British Columbia in 2006. She is currently translating fiction by Yi Hyo-sŏk and Kim Nam-ch’ŏn.
I Jonathan Kief is a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, specializing in modern Korean and comparative literature.
Jae-Yong Kim is Professor of Modern Korean literature at Wongwang University. He is the author and editor of numerous books on modern Korean literature and one of the foremost scholars in South Korea of colonial-period proletarian literature and North Korean literature. His major works are K’ap’ŭ pip’yŏng ŭi ihae [Understanding KAPF Literary Criticism] (P’ulbit, 1987), Minjok munhak undong ŭi yŏksa wa iron [History and Theory of the National Literature Movement] (Han’gilsa, 1990), Pukhan munhak ŭi yŏksajŏk ihae [Historical Understanding of North Korean Literature] (Munhak kwa chisŏngsa, 1994), Hyŏmnyŏk kwa chŏhang [Collaboration and Resistance] (Somyŏng ch’ulp’ansa, 2004), and Segye munhak ŭrosŏ ŭi asia munhak [Asian Literature as World Literature] (Kŭlnurim ch’ulp’ansa, 2012).
Ross King is Professor of Korean and Head of the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia. He is the editor of Description and Explanation in Korean Linguistics (Cornell East Asia Series, 1998) and a co-editor of Koryo Saram: Koreans in the Former USSR (The East Rock Institute, 2001) and the co-author of Elementary Korean (Tuttle Publishing, 2000) and Continuing Korean (Tuttle Publishing, 2009).
Jin-kyung Lee is Associate Professor of modern Korean literature at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of Service Economies: Militarism, Sex Work, and Migrant Labor in South Korea (University of Minnesota Press, 2010).
Sang-Kyung Lee is Professor of modern Korean literature at KAIST, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. She has published widely on colonial and post-colonial women’s literature in South Korea. She is the author of Yi Ki-yŏng: sidae wa munhak [Yi Ki-yŏng’s Life, Times and Literature] (P’ulbit, 1994), Han’guk kŭndae yŏsŏng munhaksa ron [Literary History of Modern Korean Women’s Literature] (Somyŏng ch’ulp’an, 2002), Nanŭn in’gan ŭro salgo sipda: yŏngwŏnhan sinyŏsŏng, Na Hye-sŏk [To Live as a Human Being: an Eternal New Woman, Na Hye-sŏk] (Han’gilsa, 2009), and Im Sun-dŭk: taeanjŏk yŏsŏng chuch’e rŭl hyanghayŏ [Im Sun-dŭk: Toward an Alternative Feminine Subjectivity] (Somyŏng ch’ulp’an, 2009). She is also the editor of Kang Kyŏng-ae chŏnjip [Collected Works of Kang Kyŏng-ae] (Somyŏng ch’ulp’an, 1999), and Na Hye-sŏk chŏnjip [Collected Works of Na Hye-sŏk] (T’aehaksa, 2000).
Samuel Perry is Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies at Brown University. He is the translator of Kang Kyŏng-ae's 1934 newspaper novel In'gan munje, a classic of literary realism in the canons of both South Korea and the DPRK, published as From Wonso Pond (The Feminist Press, 2009). He is working on a manuscript, Recasting Red Culture: Childhood, Korea and the Avant-Garde in Proletarian Japan, which addresses the revolutionary culture of early 20th century Japan and Korea.
Christina Yi is a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, specializing in modern Japanese and Korean literature. Her translations have appeared in the literary journal Waseda Bungaku and the academic essay collection Censorship, Media, and Literary Culture in Japan: From Edo to Postwar (Shin'yōsha, 2012), among others.
"Rat Fire is a very welcome addition to the library of modern Korean fiction in English. The illustrations and cartoons from newspapers and magazines of the 20s, 30s and 40s are a delightful feature and add enormously to the power of the volume. The primary value of the stories, I believe, is as portraits of life in colonial Korea. Not only do they paint a pan-East Asian world that we didn't really know very much about but they do so with a great sense of passion and melodrama." -- Acta Koreanan